The city has not done due diligence in keeping up with deterioration of infrastructure such as roads and pipelines, said Public Works Director Bob Dean.
“For the last 20 years or so, the can’s been kicked down the road,” Dean said
Dean said the city is now at a critical point “where we need to take this on and really make a push to get our infrastructure corrected or we’re going to have these failures going on at a faster and faster rate.”
At the presentation of the city’s proposed budget Tuesday, Dean told members of the City Council that the city should double its road-paving budget to about $500,000 a year in order to keep pace with road deterioration and get the city on a 20-year paving cycle. He also warned of a potential $800,000 to $1 million project to replace storm water pipe along Weaver Road, which has disintegrated and and caused sinkholes along the road.
In the meantime, work on a project at McClellan in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to pave 1.8 miles of McClellan’s Summerall Gate Road, Exchange Avenue and a nearby traffic circle will get underway within the next couple of months.
APAC Mid-South of Birmingham on Friday returned the low bid of slightly less than $572,000 to complete the project. Clay McBrien with the Alabama Department of Transportation’s Office Engineer bureau said that if the low bid is awarded, the total project cost would likely amount to about $720,000. For the city, this translates to a likely $220,000 price tag: $95,000 to pave Exchange Avenue and about $125,000 for its 20 percent funding match on the project.
Tony Harris, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said work will likely begin on the project by mid-to-late October. Harris said that given recent weather, the project will likely take about five to six months to complete.
Danny McCullars, finance director and interim city manager, said that catching up with failing infrastructure will save the city money in the long run. He said that if the disintegrated storm water pipe along Weaver Road had been discovered earlier, it likely could have been repaired at a much lower cost than replacing it.
McCullars said it’s in everybody’s interest to perform a comprehensive survey of the city’s infrastructure. The study could cost as much as a half-million dollars, he said.
“This study, I would really like to see us move forward with that at a rapid pace, even if we have to float a bond on it,” said Councilman Jay Jenkins, who represents Ward 1, which contains both the Weaver Road and Summerall Gate Road projects.
Jenkins said he feels that infrastructure is one of the city’s critical needs. He noted infrastructure was one of three targets for revenue from a 1-cent sales tax increase passed last year.
“While we have had a lot of conversations lately about a portion of those proceeds going to education, infrastructure was one of those needs as well,” he said.
Dean said he plans to undertake between $250,000 and $300,000 worth of smaller, routine paving projects this year.
McCullars explained that the city has a special fund set aside for road-paving projects with about $500,000 available. But, he said, taxes from gas sales, which provide the revenues for the fund, only bring in about $180,000 per year and won’t keep pace with the paving needs. The city would have to make up the more than $300,000 difference from the general fund.
Dean said the city’s next MPO project is a larger undertaking on Greenbrier Dear Road that will involve a lot of repaving and safety features such as a guardrail. He said he expects that project to get underway in the spring.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.